Yesterday I was eating breakfast at a restaurant with my sweetheart seated next to another table with two women. The tables were close together as it was a small breakfast café and it was easy to hear their conversation. One woman was describing a mutual friend, “Well, you know, she is always talking about politics….”, in a derogatory voice and tone. Interesting to me that she considered a person discussing politics in a negative light. I am sure some of my friends think of me in the same way. I am interested in politics and love discussing current events about affairs of state. I have probably been ‘un-friended’ due to my posts of government trials and tribulations on social media. If I said I didn’t care about being deleted from someone’s friends list because I like to discuss politics I would be lying. It does bother me. Enough to lose sleep over it? Or cry? No, not that much but a little bit. There are several reasons why it bothers me. It’s easy to say, “I don’t care.”, but harder to actually not care. I care about people. I care about what they think and I really care about the world I live in.
To give the reader some background and atmosphere to this article; in the background of my desk, in another room of my home, the sounds of Saturday football are heard, on a large screen TV with all the amenities of ‘football watching’, snacks and beverages and commentary and cheers but I am alone typing away on my computer. Football, as many of you know, starts in the morning and goes all day with pre-game shows, commercials about other football games and beer and snacks and followed by post game shows. The viewers and fans know every possible combination of facts about their favorite teams and players and coaches. They know about their families, where they went to school, where they grew up, how much they weigh, how tall they are, and many other details of the players’ lives. After the weekend is over they carry this information with them to jobs, schools, night clubs, bars, gatherings and friends, even the dinner table. You know people like this, perhaps you are also enamored with a favorite team and can quotes statistics and trivia about them, harmless fun among friends and family. Your profile picture may even be your team’s mascot and on casual Friday you wear your team’s jersey to the office. It’s pretty rare to hear a critical comment of someone by another person. “Well, you know, how she is always talking about football….” Or baseball or basketball or tennis or soccer.
During sporting playoffs I will see multiple posts on social media about a team’s progress in just a few hours. Walking into public places, like bars or shopping malls, TV’s are set to athletic events. At 2 local restaurants there are 5 TV’s in each one and every one of them is tuned into a sporting event. Local TV stations divide stories into news, weather and sports, with one personality dedicated to sports stories and events. Sports is really important to us and we spare no expense when it comes to games. We have crumbling roads and bridges in the city I live in BUT we have several stadiums, the roads to get to the stadiums are constantly in disrepair but the stadiums are polished and have all the latest modern conveniences. The athletes make more money than most people can even imagine. All of this is perfectly acceptable and questioning the rationality of the large amount of money spent on a ‘game’ is met with scowls and sharp comments.
Sports are fun and enjoyable and I understand the attraction and begrudge no one their enjoyment of watching or participating in a sports event. Viewing an athlete performing at their peak after training and perfecting their artistry is pleasurable and entertaining. Even people who don’t generally watch football or baseball enjoy watching athletes compete in the Olympics. We enjoy cheering for them and watching them achieve life long goals after years of hard work and dedication. While sports deserve a place in our lives if they were absent our lives would still continue, a little less fun, but we would still endure. Without government, however, our lives would not function. We could not do our jobs or live comfortable lives because, like it or not, we need some form of government to function, water to drink, sewers to drain, roads to drive on, police and firefighters to protect us, and a variety of other important functions critical to our daily lives.
Understanding who our elected officials are and what they are doing warrants some attention, at least half as much as our favorite team given that their actions affect how we live, work and play. "Every country has the government it deserves", Joseph de Maistre wrote in 1811 (published in 1851). Voter turnout at elections has ranged around 50% since 1972. Appallingly, in 2014, “Turnout of the voting-eligible population was just 36.4 percent, according to the projection from the United States Elections Project, run by Dr. Michael McDonald at the University of Florida.” Meanwhile, 58% percent of the US population watched the Super Bowl. Perhaps if we held elections at sporting events we would have better turn out. Scholars, pundits, newscasters, and others attribute small voter turnout to the level of disgust in our elected officials. We don’t vote because we don’t believe we have a winning team or even a team that has a chance at winning. At least with our sports teams we believe rules are in place and athletes are trained to give us their best and honest effort and that when our team wins it is because they earned through hard work and ethics. We don’t feel the same about our politicians. And that may be just how they like it. If people aren’t showing up to vote, politicians can believe the misconception that they are doing what voters want instead of seeing low voter turnout as utter disgust with their actions. They do not think, “less than half the people in my district voted which means I only won by barely 25% of the voting population”. For politicians it is simple, “I won or I lost.” They are not considering that most people are not even participating because they have given up faith. It would be like only half of our favorite team showing up to the field and playing while the other players were still at home. Would we think we viewed the best game possible if half the team played or would we feel cheated? Would the players feel like they played their best if half their team mates weren’t there to support them? We only win when we give our best effort. Right now voters and politicians are not giving their best effort.
If we spent a modicum of the effort we spend on sports facts and statistics on politics we may have a country with adequate schools for everyone, roads with minimal potholes, bridges that are rated A+ instead of D, financial institutes that don’t crash our economy, fire stations that are fully functioning and all of the other things citizens have a right to expect of their government and tax dollars. If there is one thing all of us can agree on is that we are not happy with our government. What we disagree on is how to fix it. Feasibly, if we paid attention to the actions and legislation that is going on in our local, state and federal government we may be able to voice our dissatisfaction and have the country that we know we want but agree we don’t have. It is more fun and easier to watch sports and share the antics and skills of our favorite athletes but unfortunately it does not enhance our lives in a truly meaningful way. If we aren’t happy discussing politics it is because we have allowed government to fail. If we would rather talk sports it is because we don’t want to think about the state of affairs that exists because the problems seem so overwhelming. A sporting event has a beginning and an end and the rules are adhered to strictly by umpires and written rules that are observed to the letter. Our politicians violate our laws so much that we are no longer surprised or offended. It is commonplace.
I get it, no one likes to hear or talk about bad news. Who wants to hang out with the person who is calling attention to our state of affairs when it is much more pleasant to discuss the latest fantasy league results? The world is a rough place and there are a lot of serious problems that seem to have no solution but ignoring problems is the worst possible solution.